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Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths about Human Nature

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There are three major myths of human nature: humans are divided into biological races; humans are naturally aggressive; men and women are truly different in behavior, desires, and wiring. In an engaging and wide-ranging narrative Agustin Fuentes counters these pervasive and pernicious myths about human behavior. Tackling misconceptions about what race, aggression, and sex There are three major myths of human nature: humans are divided into biological races; humans are naturally aggressive; men and women are truly different in behavior, desires, and wiring. In an engaging and wide-ranging narrative Agustin Fuentes counters these pervasive and pernicious myths about human behavior. Tackling misconceptions about what race, aggression, and sex really mean for humans, Fuentes incorporates an accessible understanding of culture, genetics, and evolution requiring us to dispose of notions of "nature or nurture." Presenting scientific evidence from diverse fields, including anthropology, biology, and psychology, Fuentes devises a myth-busting toolkit to dismantle persistent fallacies about the validity of biological races, the innateness of aggression and violence, and the nature of monogamy and differences between the sexes. A final chapter plus an appendix provide a set of take-home points on how readers can myth-bust on their own. Accessible, compelling, and original, this book is a rich and nuanced account of how nature, culture, experience, and choice interact to influence human behavior.


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There are three major myths of human nature: humans are divided into biological races; humans are naturally aggressive; men and women are truly different in behavior, desires, and wiring. In an engaging and wide-ranging narrative Agustin Fuentes counters these pervasive and pernicious myths about human behavior. Tackling misconceptions about what race, aggression, and sex There are three major myths of human nature: humans are divided into biological races; humans are naturally aggressive; men and women are truly different in behavior, desires, and wiring. In an engaging and wide-ranging narrative Agustin Fuentes counters these pervasive and pernicious myths about human behavior. Tackling misconceptions about what race, aggression, and sex really mean for humans, Fuentes incorporates an accessible understanding of culture, genetics, and evolution requiring us to dispose of notions of "nature or nurture." Presenting scientific evidence from diverse fields, including anthropology, biology, and psychology, Fuentes devises a myth-busting toolkit to dismantle persistent fallacies about the validity of biological races, the innateness of aggression and violence, and the nature of monogamy and differences between the sexes. A final chapter plus an appendix provide a set of take-home points on how readers can myth-bust on their own. Accessible, compelling, and original, this book is a rich and nuanced account of how nature, culture, experience, and choice interact to influence human behavior.

30 review for Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths about Human Nature

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    There’s A LOT of data in this book, and the author rather pedantically presents many, many chapters to set up what basis he’s using to make his deductions. Let me stress again: many, many chapters. It started to feel a bit like homework. He then proceeds with what he calls “myth busting” as a way to debunk the common (stereotypical) beliefs alluded to in the title of the book. On the plus side, I had leaned towards most of his deductions prior to reading the book and it was interesting to read t There’s A LOT of data in this book, and the author rather pedantically presents many, many chapters to set up what basis he’s using to make his deductions. Let me stress again: many, many chapters. It started to feel a bit like homework. He then proceeds with what he calls “myth busting” as a way to debunk the common (stereotypical) beliefs alluded to in the title of the book. On the plus side, I had leaned towards most of his deductions prior to reading the book and it was interesting to read the science which supported them. On the minus side, after laboriously setting up the basis for his theories, the deductions (the myth bustings) are whipped through quickly and mostly rely on studies that are referenced in the bibliography but not really discussed in any detail. That was disappointing and I was left feeling somewhat short-changed. I think the book was written to too broad of an audience and, in trying to make it interesting to more scientific readers as well as laymen, it ended up a bit unsatisfactory to everyone (at least that seems to be the case from my reading of Amazon’s reviews). I heard the author interviewed on NPR which is how I first learned of the book. His enthusiasm for his topic was palpable and he was very interesting, and sometimes that enthusiasm comes through in the book. I just wish a bit more of it did.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Adam Shand

    Didn't finish it, but spent a couple of hours browsing it. Annoyingly it's quite an interesting book ruined by the authors inability to be concise or tell a story. Didn't finish it, but spent a couple of hours browsing it. Annoyingly it's quite an interesting book ruined by the authors inability to be concise or tell a story.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andi

    Everyone should read this book, ESPECIALLY politicians. It should be a requirement of the office.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Patterson

    Non-fiction might not be everyone's bag, but I'd go so far as to say this should be required reading, full stop. This book in particular has some pretty dense, academic chunks (though compared to the studies they reference, I'm sure they're as accessible as they could be) but is overall very digestible. Fuentes tackles three pervasive myths about human nature - ones we all participate in on a daily basis. He does so by first explaining what myths are and their significance in human life, then ho Non-fiction might not be everyone's bag, but I'd go so far as to say this should be required reading, full stop. This book in particular has some pretty dense, academic chunks (though compared to the studies they reference, I'm sure they're as accessible as they could be) but is overall very digestible. Fuentes tackles three pervasive myths about human nature - ones we all participate in on a daily basis. He does so by first explaining what myths are and their significance in human life, then how he intends to bust them, then provides his credentials and reiterates that the content of the book should provide a jump-off point to do your own research. He then explains the myths about race, aggression, and gender and systematically dismantles them. Finally, he provides oodles of footnotes, references, further reading, and tools to think critically about the nature of...well, our nature. Why? The general idea is that by understanding why we think these things, and what we misunderstand, we can better build society to account for them and create and equitable future for everyone. Pretty straightforward. Rather than get into the nitty gritty here, i'd much rather you read it, and then share these conversations in person. Well worth the effort, and I imagine, frustratingly eye-opening for a good deal of people who should read it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    viva las vegas

    Title is intetesting. But real arguments are not so strong and few times I was confused why author found out that this myth is busted. Unfortunately, a lot of arguments are based on “think about it!” or “other people think about it”. I understand that it’s not easy find so many researches and there don’t exist so many datas, numbers and arguments. But for me this book is more like “let’s talk about it” then “here is real situation and here are real arguments”. Plus author very ofter repeat the s Title is intetesting. But real arguments are not so strong and few times I was confused why author found out that this myth is busted. Unfortunately, a lot of arguments are based on “think about it!” or “other people think about it”. I understand that it’s not easy find so many researches and there don’t exist so many datas, numbers and arguments. But for me this book is more like “let’s talk about it” then “here is real situation and here are real arguments”. Plus author very ofter repeat the same thought, in different words. The same sentences more times. It looks like if you repeat something so many times, people will believe that it’s true. Book is fine, but if you want know more, you need different sources. But I really like appendix about how ask good questions, how find your own sources and how think about everything. This part was the best from whole book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jan Agaton

    I'm surprised I actually read this in full, considering it was required for a class I didn't enjoy at all. It was a pretty easy read for an educational book; I was able to follow along and learn a few things about important topics. I'm surprised I actually read this in full, considering it was required for a class I didn't enjoy at all. It was a pretty easy read for an educational book; I was able to follow along and learn a few things about important topics.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Carol Turner

    Interesting and not for the faint of heart. Lots of good information.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Miyoshi

    I felt as though I was being tortured reading it. If it was a required assignment I would have dropped it a long time ago.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lynne

    A decent book for beginner anthropologist or for those who wish to understand myths and misconceptions of humans. But as a senior, this was an elementary read for my senior seminar.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Clark

    Very accessible to the laymen.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bea Batres

    Enjoyed the book, as other reviewers high light, the first chapters maybe a bit too long, more intro than needed. The author questions the validity of some of the most predominant myths on human nature, for example, monogamy or race, by evaluating the scientific data that should support these beliefs. I think it is a worthwhile read, and helps the reader be more aware of all the bias that is ingrained in us by our social conditioning.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alexios Xifaras

    Winner of the 2016 W.W. Howells Award. Definitely worth it ! The book introduces the reader to the basics of the theory of evolution and then proceeds to demolish the myths associated to: 1) Race (this category, simply, does not apply to humans. We all belong to the same race.), 2) Aggression (we are not as aggressive as you probably think and definitely we did not inherit this trait from our common ancestor with the chimps and bonobos) and 3) Sex (the differences between the sexes are not biolo Winner of the 2016 W.W. Howells Award. Definitely worth it ! The book introduces the reader to the basics of the theory of evolution and then proceeds to demolish the myths associated to: 1) Race (this category, simply, does not apply to humans. We all belong to the same race.), 2) Aggression (we are not as aggressive as you probably think and definitely we did not inherit this trait from our common ancestor with the chimps and bonobos) and 3) Sex (the differences between the sexes are not biological but to a major extent socially constructed). It is a pity that this book has such low ratings in Amazon. My personal advice: Do not be misled by the reviews in Amazon ! Read this book and make your own conclusions. Personally I think this book is one of the best in the subject of biological anthropology.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Valter

    This book is repetitive, tedious, boring, dry and repetitive. Did I mention it's repetitive, too? Besides, you sense the author's bias, in the way he supports his thesis (e.g., in selecting narrow examples or using a binary approach). Sometimes he cherry picks the examples supporting his thesis, and discard them when they aren't. I'm not even halfway, and I'm really tempted to stop reading. When the author repeats a concept over and over, I feel the urge to scream and throw away the book (alas, si This book is repetitive, tedious, boring, dry and repetitive. Did I mention it's repetitive, too? Besides, you sense the author's bias, in the way he supports his thesis (e.g., in selecting narrow examples or using a binary approach). Sometimes he cherry picks the examples supporting his thesis, and discard them when they aren't. I'm not even halfway, and I'm really tempted to stop reading. When the author repeats a concept over and over, I feel the urge to scream and throw away the book (alas, since I'm reading it as e-book, I can't ;-). The premise is valid and the information are sometimes interesting, that's why I'm giving 2 stars. If the book was half the length, pruned from repetitions and more lively, it would be worth 3 stars - although the reader should still be cautious about the author's bias.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I don't like Fuentes' constant use of something that amounts to "Myth hereby busted" line throughout the whole of the book. It makes it feel a little formulaic and by extension, repetitive. I like that it has a simple cook-book type of feel to it, however, which is in part set up by that formulaic outline of chapters and repetitive tag line. It feels like something perfect for undergrads, making it a very nice teaching tool to use as a shortcut to teaching human evolution, along with many other I don't like Fuentes' constant use of something that amounts to "Myth hereby busted" line throughout the whole of the book. It makes it feel a little formulaic and by extension, repetitive. I like that it has a simple cook-book type of feel to it, however, which is in part set up by that formulaic outline of chapters and repetitive tag line. It feels like something perfect for undergrads, making it a very nice teaching tool to use as a shortcut to teaching human evolution, along with many other themes besides. The book contains a ton of information and it does a decent job at synthesizing it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chris Webster

    I gave the book four stars because it's a good book if you want a broad overview of a lot of topics. The science novice would get a lot out of this book. That being said, Fuentes could learn to get to the point. My wife and I read this for a book club and she recently said that we should have a drinking game where we drink every time Fuentes asks a rhetorical question. It got a bit frustrating at times. Again, great information and an admirable attempt at letting people know that their basic assu I gave the book four stars because it's a good book if you want a broad overview of a lot of topics. The science novice would get a lot out of this book. That being said, Fuentes could learn to get to the point. My wife and I read this for a book club and she recently said that we should have a drinking game where we drink every time Fuentes asks a rhetorical question. It got a bit frustrating at times. Again, great information and an admirable attempt at letting people know that their basic assumptions about people are likely wrong. I just wish that the people that actually need this information would read the book. They won't, though, because the "game" is on.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Great insights on biological source of characteristics related to race (or more correctly ethnic background), sex/gender, mad aggression. Sets up his own straw-men, or "myths" to bust, leaving me wondering if it makes a difference that we think we are different because of ethnic or biological reasons or socialization. Whatever the case, we still have to live in this world, and a cut and dried scientific solution does not make that any easier. Not very smooth reading. Great insights on biological source of characteristics related to race (or more correctly ethnic background), sex/gender, mad aggression. Sets up his own straw-men, or "myths" to bust, leaving me wondering if it makes a difference that we think we are different because of ethnic or biological reasons or socialization. Whatever the case, we still have to live in this world, and a cut and dried scientific solution does not make that any easier. Not very smooth reading.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Georgeann Galante

    I enjoy reading books on human nature. This one didn't let me down. I enjoy reading books on human nature. This one didn't let me down.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Aga

  19. 5 out of 5

    Meagan

  20. 4 out of 5

    Leigh Anne Menard

  21. 4 out of 5

    Allison

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kara

  23. 4 out of 5

    Wiktor

  24. 4 out of 5

    Casey Horan

  25. 4 out of 5

    John

  26. 4 out of 5

    BIGMU91

  27. 4 out of 5

    Carl Stevens

  28. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

  29. 5 out of 5

    Emily

  30. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Bell

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